News Leadership 3.0

January 21, 2010

Don’t “over Twitter” and other social media tips for news organizations

Media strategist Steve Safran says news organizations must straddle two worlds - the traditional one of producing news and the new one as a player on social networks. Here are his tips for success.

(USC journalism graduate student Nikki Usher sat in on the Knight Digital Media Center’s Strategic Leadership Summit for Public Radio Stations, held last month in conjunction with National Public Radio and funded by Knight Foundation. I asked her to write about key takeaways.)

By Nikki Usher

Steve Safran, a media strategist at Media Reinvent, offered key take-home lessons for news organizations looking to improve their online presence:

1. The Twitter Effect.

Safran advised public radio stations not to get bogged down in numbers of Twitter followers. He highlighted Boston public radio station WBUR, which has 4,300 or so followers. But, Safran pointed out, Twitterers have “spheres of influence.”
The average twitter user, according to Safran, has 126 followers. WBUR has 4,385 followers, but if all of them retweet, that means another 552,510 people may pay attention to WBUR. In a magic world, if all those people retweeted WBUR, you could get 69 million WBUR mentions. “Small beginnings are OK,” he said.
Safran’s number one tip for Twitterers: don’t over tweet. Keep it short, and don’t over promote.
“Audiences want their information as micro as possible,” Safran said. “You are using other people’s mobile text money, so make it worth their money.”

2. Media 1.0 vs. Media 2.0

News organizations are in a funny spot. They are original content providers and they must play in social media.
Media 1.0 is: one way, mass media, top/down, a closed network,  (e.g. not sharing APIs, no comments on a site), hierarchical, passive, macromedia, and bundled.
Media 2.0 is: interactive, direct, bottom-up, open network, collaborative, active, micromedia, and self- bundling.
News organizations shouldn’t get rid of media 1.0 - that’s what audience come to them for - but they do need to change. Safran offered the word “simulpath” - how to keep changes occurring while things are already in progress.
He suggested:
* Unbundle content for consumption anywhere
* Build interactive applications into brand extension platforms
* Make content available for mobile distribution
* Create widgets to provide content on other Web sites in the market
* Own RSS and offer many feeds
* Launch a branded RSS reader

3. Connecting outside the news organization

News organizations, thanks to the world of Media 2.0, aren’t in their own mass media world anymore. Instead, they are part of a larger information ecosystem. And they are also part of a local community.
Safran stressed the importance of a news organization becoming a local information hub as well as an aggregator for content by users.
He suggested news organizations organize local bloggers and the local Web, build and maintain a database of local Web sites, help users create participatory content, and build standalone, niche web sites.
Niche channels are key, as Safran pointed out. “Blogs are the single best search engine optimized content out there.”
His final suggestion for news organizations was to “aggregate, aggregate, aggregate.”

4. Building hits and attracting users

“You don’t want to be best radio web site - you want to be best multimedia outlet,” Safran told public radio executives.
What does that mean for news organizations? It means giving audiences news as it happens in new and novel ways - especially in times of breaking news. Consider new blogs, mashups, and simply blowing up home pages, as CBS8 did with the California Wildfires a couple of years ago. 
And news orgs shouldn’t be afraid to be the gathering place for competing information sites, such as adding feeds from the LA Fire Department.
The web also means writing differently. Search engine optimization, according to Safran, isn’t a magical science. It’s just using easily googled words over and over again so that your site comes up first - if you’re writing about a local fire, include the name, place and site of the fire so anyone searching for information will stumble upon it.
“Keywords are marketing,” Safran said.
He offered some key suggestions:
* Write literal headlines
* Think: How would my friends search this?
* Link out like crazy: Start with two links per story
* Keep updating as the story changes
* Use lots of RSS feeds
Safran reminded public radio leaders most traffic comes from search or aggregators, not from using the home page as a destination. So news outlets are really competing to be the RSS feed of choice.

August 03, 2009

Entrepreneurship 101: Use the free stuff

In a guest post, entrepreneurial journalist Julia Scott of BargainBabe.com, lists nine steps - free or low cost - to starting a Web site and a business that helps people save money

Julia Scott is an entrepreneurial journalist, professional speaker, and blogger at BargainBabe.com, which helps people save money on everyday expenses. She just launched a second site, BargainBabeLA.com, which helps Angelenos save money using Google maps. Scott was a fellow in Knight Digital Media Center’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp in May and I’ve asked her to write an occasional guest post about her adventures in creating BargainBabe.com.

By Julia Scott

People often ask me how I got my website BargainBabe.com up and running for nothing. My answer is simple. I had no money so I found ways to do it for (almost) free.

1. I chose a site name and slogan - free!

2. I established a Wordpress blog - free!

3. I purchased a domain name ~ $8/year at GoDaddy.com if someone doesn’t already own the url (it’s usually $10 but there are often coupons). That’s dirt cheap real estate.

4. I arranged hosting for my site ~ $10/month.

5. I relied on the talents of my wonderful friends, including a graphic designer who developed my banner and a glamorous, cartoony version of me that you can peek at on my About page. A professional photographer-friend snapped the picture that is on my homepage and my techie husband and cousin did hours of back end work on the site to make it look professional and unique - free!

6. I churned out a ton of blog posts, created a blogroll, and set up a free email newsletter for readers to receive my blog posts through Feedblitz. I’ve had mixed results with Feedblitz but on the whole things have been excellent for the price - free!

7. I wrote press releases and contacted local media to get publicity for my site - free!

8. I emailed and Twittered (@bargainbabe) with other personal finance writers to join my niche’s conversation online. Linking to others and asking them to link to me did great things for my SEO - free!

9. I continue to provide useful, practical tips on saving money written in my distinct voice. I constantly poll readers and ask them for feedback on what they want to read about, what they think of an issue, or ask them to share their two cents. Building a community around my site increases loyalty and stickiness - free!

Creating my online website and business set me back just a few dollars. The real cost is my time. I do the vast majority of the work myself (I have a fantastic intern and Bargain Hubby regularly does tech maintenance) so the most pressing dilemma is how to invest my time. Everyday I have 100 things I absolutely must do. But I can only do about seven of them. Spending money is off the table, but how I spend my time will make or break my business. If you are bootstrapping your website, it is likely you will face the same time management challenges.

Later this week: Julia Scott on the challenges and opportunities of making money off a niche website.

March 13, 2009

Weekend reading

Links: The power of linking, the paid content debate

Tim Windsor asks “Why won’t news sites link?” It is surprising that news sites do not provide more links to content off their sites; it’s in their interest because outbound links make the site more useful for readers and they increase inbound traffic.
Steve Yelvington has a much needed reality check on the paid content idea with “Eight barriers to local paid content” and “Why didn’t newspapers try charging for online content? Well, they did ....

December 08, 2008

Our new leadership report is out today!

KDMC offers a collection of tips, tools and takeaways from seminar experts for newsroom leaders in the digital age

The Leadership Conference is a highlight of Knight Digital Media Center’s annual training calendar. Newsroom leaders come to the center to hear from experts in digital media, innovation and newsroom change. They return to their newsrooms with strategies and ideas for moving online.

Today, KDMC is pleased to release a report compiled from the July 2008 Leadership Conference and an earlier leadership gathering in 2007. The report is organized as a series of lists and bullet points—tools, takeaways, quotes and action steps, for example—designed to spark new thinking among newsroom leaders and link them to resources that will help them develop their ideas.

I hope you’ll take a look at the KDMC Leadership Report. Here’s a sampling:

From Takeaways:

Stacy Lynch, a consultant and project manager for the Media Management Center, warns traditional news organizations against “the sucking sound of print” as they transition to online while attempting to maintain the newspaper.

“Print will take over every ounce of energy you have,” Lynch said.  The brutal truth is there’s nothing in print that has no value. Everything has a little bit a value. Every cut hurts. You just have to figure out what hurts less.”

From Tools:

Key performance indicators provide more meaningful information on site traffic than simple counts of visits or visitors. Dana Chinn, a faculty member at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, details KPIs and their uses:

Often, that KPI is not a simple number such as time on site or unique monthly visitors. Instead, the most meaningful information may be from a ratio or comparison of two different numbers.

From Culture changers:

Change will only come from the bottom up. Command-and-control hierarchical systems of management have worked well for getting the daily paper out on time, but executive pronouncements do little to build long term change. The old structure burdens top editors with making too many small decisions instead of working on long term strategy. Perhaps more significantly, it discourages initiative - and possible innovation - from the ranks.

Also see Quotes, Reading, Action Steps

We envision a report that can grow and evolve as the challenges of newsroom leadership change. Please add your ideas in the comments.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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